How Your Retail Location Can Maximize Foot Traffic

By Julie Tilenius | Originally posted on My Total Retail (mytotalretail.com)

Retail sales were reported to have dropped in January after a busy holiday season and we’ve entered what’s traditionally the slowest season in retail. This post-holiday slump has coincided with lasting inflation and a significant drop in foot traffic, according to Adentro. However, although spending typically slows this time of year, it’s far from standstill. Census data shows even in the slowest months of 2021, shoppers were still spending over $490 million.

Your retail location may not be as bustling in the first part of the year as it was during the peak holiday shopping season, but you still have significant reason to maintain and improve your customer experience. These few-and-far-between visits might not look like major revenue-drivers at first glance, but getting a customer in your store at any point is an opportunity to make a positive impression and drive future conversions.

As you deal with the inevitable slow season, here are some ways you can make a positive impression, build a relationship with your customers, and drive future visits to your store location(s):

  1. Make sure stores are clean. I mean really clean — ideally photoshoot ready at all times. In the age of social media, every customer is also a reporter with instant access to a vast audience, so sanitary shortcomings can be quickly shared with thousands. Cleanliness is a critical component of safety and liability, and nothing can turn away a shopper faster than a space that feels dingy. The same goes for light bulbs that need changing, items obviously out of place, or restroom faucets that stick. Customers favor well-lit, clean spaces that have obviously been deep-cleaned. Your cleaning expectations should become a big focus as you find more time available for it — and this might be the time to partner with a well-known janitorial company to ensure your space looks spotless. Cleanliness elevates the customer experience and is a critical part of converting first-time guests into returning customers.
  2. Empower your staff. Your employees are trained to engage and serve customers, not clean and fix maintenance issues in your store. Especially as their energy is spent engaging visitors, we recommend empowering them to connect with customers and support sales rather than miss opportunities due to cleanliness issues. When it comes to cleaning, researching and vetting some of the national and regional services that specialize in this exact function is the best starting point. There are a number of companies that devote themselves to regular deep-cleaning of commercial spaces, maintenance and general upkeep. Whether in-house or external, it’s important to distinguish between ongoing janitorial services and deep-cleaning. Both have their place in maintaining an inviting retail environment, but need to be scheduled out strategically.
  3. Don’t forget your doors. The doors to your store are the first interaction a customer will have, so make sure they’re working and easy to open. Smudged glass, sticky hinges and a heavy frame aren’t the welcoming invitation to your location that consumers expect. A semi-annual check should create a reliable schedule to keep them in their best shape. Proactive maintenance now is the key to avoiding situations where shoppers can’t get in.
  4. Devote extra time to organization projects. The slow season is the best time to tackle longer-term projects that you simply don’t have time for when your location is busy. Taking the time to organize back-stock and make sure that area is regularly dusted and deep cleaned means employees can more quickly find items for customers and ensure they’re in the best shape possible. As a consumer, waiting for employees to sort through a mountain of poorly organized product and getting a dusty box in return is an immediate turn-off. Wise retail managers will use this slower-pace period as a jumping off point for success when foot traffic returns.

The annual slowdown after the holiday season is often seen as a complete dead zone to many retailers. However, with the right preparation and attention to detail in this slower period, you can set the foundation for a successful space when foot traffic picks back up. Every consumer interaction in this period is a unique opportunity to impress customers and encourage them to come back.

Julie Tilenius is president of TrueSource, an OnPoint Group Company, a partner to more than half of the U.S. top 100 retailers nationwide and the first call for retailers and property managers in need of critical facility maintenance.